In January, Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN targeted one of the Internet’s largest warez piracy topsites. The site, known as Swan, was taken down by hosting provider WorldStream and in a cosy arrangement the company handed over the servers to the anti-piracy group with no legal oversight.
This week, with the support of Solv Advocaten, one of The Netherlands’ top law firms, server owner Alejandra Transporte SA, a small South American hosting provider that had nothing to do with the topsite, managed to get their servers back. Unlike BREIN, Alejandra Transporte did so through the legal system, obtaining authorization from the Court of Haarlem.
Now in an interview with Webwereld, Alejandra Transporte boss Craig Salmond has been explaining how the actions of BREIN have “ruined his business” by “stealing” $138,000 worth of his equipment.
“BREIN – with the active participation of WorldStream – effectively killed my business,” said Salmond. “My equipment was stolen and the keys to my reputation.”
Salmond said that Alejandra Transporte is a small ISP that takes the privacy of its users very seriously and says the facilities offered are similar similar to those provided by renowned bullet-proof hoster PRQ in Sweden. The manner in which Alejandra Transporte can accept payments from customers to maintain their privacy is also innovative.
“Customers can transfer money through Western Union but also, for example through a deposit at different poker sites,” Salmond explains. “So we reach people who do not have access to services such as PayPal or for privacy reasons do not want to use it.”
But of course, in January Alejandra Transporte went offline thanks to BREIN and WorldStream. Salmond says that when he called WorldStream, they refused to tell him anything, instead referring him back to BREIN.
“[WorldStream] are actually responsible for this,” Salmond told Webwereld. “WorldStream has a contract with me, I entrusted them to take care of and manage my property. They have grossly violated my trust and given my servers away.”
Disputing BREIN’s claims that they seized 12 of his servers (they took only 8), Salmond says that to know exactly how much capacity they had, BREIN must have gained illegal access to the machines. Furthermore, in correspondence with Salmond, BREIN themselves indicated that they somehow had acquired what is described as “a temporary account” on the servers before they were seized, leading to accusations that BREIN could have easily uploaded any material they liked, thus contaminating the investigation.
And the accusations don’t stop there.
Salmond says that following the seizures he could no longer access some GMail accounts since their passwords had been changed. He attributes this to BREIN having hijacked the accounts.
“What BREIN and WorldStream have done, can not be tolerated,” said Milica Antic of Solv lawfirm who are representing Salmond. “My client sees this as theft of his property. He has also suffered enormous financial and reputational damage.”
This case again appears to highlight the perils of copyright-supporting outfits such as BREIN – who have no official authority – carrying out investigations in a manner more fitting of governmental bodies such as the police or the courts.
Just this week the case against two administrators of the FileSoup BitTorrent site was thrown out. FACT – another Hollywood-backed private anti-piracy group with confusions as to the extent of their powers – had conducted their own investigations into the site but the evidence proved worthless to a criminal case and was dismissed.